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Nintendo DS Review: Diddy Kong Racing DS

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When Diddy Kong Racing first came out for the Nintendo 64, almost ten years ago, I was a huge fan of it. Not only did it feature one of my favorite video game characters, Diddy Kong, but also because it was extremely fun to play on your own, and with others.

Unfortunately, Diddy Kong Racing DS kind of makes me wonder if it was such a great game after all. After playing this version, I’m not so sure if the first game was such a classic as I thought it was to be.

To begin with, the story is insanely… stupid. The DS version actually explains the story with a cut scene. A massive pig by the name of Wizpig suddenly appears on Timber the Tiger’s island. One of Diddy’s friends writes him a letter, telling him that the giant pig has invaded the island. Diddy responds and rounds up every cute little character on the island, and then meets up with all of them…to race each other? Hopefully, racing each other will allow you to race Wizpig, who will go home after you come in first place against him.

Unlike the Mario Kart series, Diddy Kong Racing has you traveling around an island in a vehicle looking for specific places to race in instead of just picking from a list of tracks. You can visit four themed worlds, each with a variety of tracks, and a boss that you must defeat to bring you one step closer to racing Wizpig. The game also has tons of objects and items in each world that you can collect.

Racing isn’t that difficult to pick up on at all. The player must race against seven other karts, or hovercrafts/planes, depending on what the level is, and use various short cuts or weapons to earn the title of first place and a golden balloon that will be used to access other areas. Racing in this game seems a bit more difficult than the original Diddy Kong Racing, but it isn’t exactly impossible.

Unlike Mario Kart DS, this game doesn’t have much variety of weapons. Blue balloons carry boost, red balloons carry missiles, green balloons carry obstacles such as oil spills, rainbow balloons carry magnet type weapons in which the player attracts closer to the racer in front of him, and yellow balloons that carry force fields.

When you pick up a weapon by popping one of these balloons, you can hold your current weapon and pop another balloon of the same color to earn a better type of weapon. For example, a red balloon gives you a single missile. Popping another red balloon will give you five missiles in stock, and popping yet another red balloon will give you a homing missile.

Also unlike Mario Kart DS, Diddy Kong Racing DS has more than one vehicle: the hovercraft, the plane, and the kart. Each vehicle can be used in every track, although some levels have restrictions, depending on the environment of each racecourse.

Just like in the original, you can earn an extra boost in the beginning of each race. Unfortunately, they use the DS’ abilities in a very poor manner. If you’re in the hovercraft, you’ll need to blow into the mic as hard as you can to earn a boost. The kart has you using your stylus, or finger, to scrape the touch screen in downward motions as if you were turning a wheel. The plane has you moving your stylus or finger to spin the plane’s propeller in circular motions.

Each of these tasks are hard to do, since right after you do them, you must frantically put down your stylus or stop whatever it is you’re doing and quickly hold the A button down to start your engine and race. The entire game tries hard to make use of the DS’ touch screen capabilities, but they are never used in a good way.

Also to take advantage of the touch screen controls, Diddy Kong Racing DS has replaced the original silver coin races, in which you had to collection eight silver coins in each track and come in first place while doing so, with a nice balloon popping track. You must ride on a magic carpet, provided by Taj the Genie, who aids you throughout your adventure, and pop every single golden balloon you see on the track.

This is pretty tricky since swiping your touch screen doesn’t really move the camera like you would hope it would. Not being able to view some parts of the track means you can’t pop certain golden balloons, or see certain coins to collect. You must gain at least a bronze level of balloon popping to pass in each balloon-popping course, which usually means popping about thirty of the fifty balloons. I would much rather have the original silver coin challenge than this horrendous new mode.

There are a variety of characters in this game to choose from, including a few unlockable characters you can gain later on in the game. Diddy Kong, Timber the Tiger, Pipsy the Mouse, Tiptup the Turtle, Bumper the Badger, and Krunch the Kremling. Rareware mascots Banjo the Bear and Conker the Squirrel are missing from this game, and have been replaced with Dixie Kong and Tiny Kong.

The audio in this game is pretty great. I’ve always enjoyed the sounds of Rareware games, and this game further pushes my love. The DS’ stereo sound flaunts how great the music of Diddy Kong Racing is. The voice of each character has been redone, and has change from the original. They each sound like they have a sort of English accent. Everything in the audio department is pretty well done though.

Compared to other DS games, Diddy Kong Racing DS isn’t that great in the graphics department. The graphics are very average looking. This title seems to look as if it came out the very first month the DS first did.

Diddy Kong Racing DS isn’t really much of a threat to Mario Kart DS at all – Why choose a lesser game over a blockbuster hit? Diddy Kong Racing DS is a so-so upgrade to an N64 gem, and even has online play and a custom track maker, but the touch screen features seem to make this game pretty lackluster.

Diddy Kong Racing DS is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Mild Cartoon Violence.

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